One of the highlights of 2021 at Swansea University was undoubtedly the inaugural Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Summit.
Convened and chaired by Secretary Clinton, and sponsored by the Welsh Government, the Summit, which took place between the 8th and 10th November, featured a host of international speakers, experts and inspirational change-makers conversing on topics including global healthcare, achieving carbon reduction targets, harnessing technology as a force for good, and promoting a more equal world.
The Summit formed part of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Programme launched at the University by Secretary Clinton in 2019, with the aim of developing the next generation of outstanding leaders in legal scholarship, activism and practice.
The opening session of the Summit was introduced by Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, and featured Secretary Clinton and the Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister of Wales. Secretary Clinton set the scene for discussions by saying: “The theme of this Global Challenges Summit is Partnerships for a Post-Covid World, and I’ve been very inspired by the partnership over the last four years with Swansea University and what we’ve been able to create together in helping to create a global challenges scholarship programme which already has a growing number of graduates heading out into the world to help form those partnerships and solve the problems we all face.” Speaking on the subject of global challenges, The Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS said, that Wales’ approach: “derives from principles of 20 years of devolution and that there was in Wales, a deep-seated belief that the duty of care that we owe to one another extends to people in another part of the world whose fate is bound up in our own.”
Discussions over the course of the three-day Summit frequently centred around health, and particularly Covid-19. A session entitled Global Health, led by Professor Keith Lloyd, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean at Swansea University, featured Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organisation, who said that the pandemic “had exposed inequities in countries, especially a vaccine inequity.”
Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, spoke of Wales’ response to the pandemic, and how this made the country transform its health system, compelling people to work collaboratively across organisations such as the NHS, the Welsh Government and academia, “something we can work on as we move forward.” These comments were echoed by Dr Latif Akintade, Senior Vice-President of Pfizer, who said, “The pandemic made us realise the importance of health, how we need to focus and invest in it; and how we better collaborate across different industries, governments and different technology companies. Different entities coming together to find solutions has been a very important part of the pandemic.”
Swansea University’s Professor Dave Worsley led the session ‘Towards Carbon Zero’. He started by saying, “The climate crisis requires global cooperation, new partnerships, creative thinking and innovation if we are to succeed in confronting it.” Panellists for this session included Gina McCarthy, National Climate Adviser to The White House who spoke on President Biden’s ambition for the US to have a grid run solely on clean energy by 2035, and said that the US was really ‘turning the tide’ with the need to move forward quickly especially following President Biden’s infrastructure deal passed in November concerning all the infrastructure needed to shift towards a clean economy.
Addressing equality issues, whether gender equalities, or inequities amongst countries was another topic high on the agenda. Secretary Clinton was in conversation with H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Laureate, and Professor Alexander Stubb, Former Prime Minister of Finland during one session where H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who on International Women’s Day 2020 launched the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Centre for Women and Development, said that, “The Centre is to serve as a catalyst for political and social change across Africa, with emphasis on women leaders and women leadership.” This led Secretary Clinton to comment that, “Women’s full participation in society including at the highest levels of leadership is the great unfinished business of the 21st century.”
In the same session, Secretary Clinton spoke to Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland, who said that the pandemic revealed the importance of health, which is at the top of Iceland’s wellbeing agenda, and the importance of building a good health system. She also emphasised the role of women, and the different burdens placed on them throughout the pandemic.
Professor Elwen Evans, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean at Swansea University chaired the session ‘A more Equal Society’ which touched on children’s rights linking, of course, with the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law Observatory on Human Rights of Children. This session included panellists the Rt Hon David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Lily Caprani, Head of Advocacy at UNICEF.
Professor Evans introduced the session as an opportunity “to gain thoughts on the role of governments, businesses and individuals on making the progress we need to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable are protected.” The Rt Hon David Miliband said that, ‘In many ways the people we try to empower through the IRC are the most vulnerable,” and that, “recognising common humanity is the biggest lesson we have learnt through this work.”
Wales, specifically, Lily Caprani said, had, “blazed a trail and gone beyond thinking of the immediate needs of children who don’t have a voice as voting citizens or acting consumers but also created some accountability around the idea of intergenerational justice that should stem from children having rights.”
Professor Evans also hosted the session, ‘A Trailblazing Partnership’ where she was in discussion with Secretary Clinton and Dana Strong, Chief Executive at Sky about the Global Challenges Scholarship programme. On her reasons for partnering with Swansea University, Dana Strong called Swansea, “a community of problem-solvers, whose approach really embodied Sky’s values” and that the most important element of Sky’s decision to partner with the University and Secretary Clinton was to, “learn from partners we felt could really help us grow as an organisation, and how we do public and private partnerships.”
On the subject of global inequalities, Professor Matt Jones, Director of the Morgan Advanced Studies Institute, led the session on Digital Futures, which focused partly on, as he said, “those in the world who cannot access the digital innovation we all take so much for granted.” The panel featured Vinton G. Cerf, Vice-President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, who joined in discussions on topics including digital ethics, artificial intelligence and how it would be through negotiation, working with communities and co-creative thinking that the world can move forward with digital innovation in a positive way.
Secretary Clinton also hosted a discussion entitled Changing Thinking to Change the World which included discussions on how the traits of grit, passion and perseverance can help us tackle global challenges.
The sessions attracted nearly 2,500 attendees and all the discussions are currently available on-demand.
Speaking of the Summit, Professor Paul Boyle said: “Our University’s longstanding relationship with Secretary Clinton is based on a foundation of common values and rooted in a positive, shared vision of what our world could be and how we can work together to make that vision a reality. For over a century, Swansea University has been proud to face up to the most pressing challenges of our time and through our research, to provide real world solutions. I am extremely proud to have been part of this, our inaugural Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Summit which has given us the opportunity to share our thoughts and hold discussions with such a wide range of prestigious speakers on the most pressing of issues and which has emphasised a shared commitment to progress and positive change.”
Secretary Clinton and Swansea University
In October 2017, Swansea University was proud to confer an Honorary Award on former US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in recognition of her political career, commitment to human rights, and of her ancestral connections with Swansea.
During the ceremony, Secretary Clinton gave a keynote lecture on children’s human rights and unveiled a plaque to mark the naming of the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law.
Secretary Clinton returned to Swansea to meet with Law School colleagues in 2018, and again in 2019 to launch the Global Challenges Programme and meet the five inaugural scholars. The Secretary also took part as guest of honour in the “Gutsy Welsh Women” panel discussion before an audience of leading businesswomen and entrepreneurs, university staff and students, and the wider Swansea University community.
While Covid-19 prevented travel to the UK, Secretary Clinton maintained close contact with the University throughout 2020, shared her experiences and insights with the scholars, and delivered the James Callaghan Memorial Lecture as part of the University’s centenary celebrations.
In February 2021, Secretary Clinton led the online graduation celebration for the inaugural scholars and announced the second cohort of the Global Challenges Programme, which continues to be supported by Sky.